Stop Blaming IT! How Communication Could Improve From The SEO Side

Last time, we talked about making your Global Search Marketing Ecosystem  thrive and one of the key elements for success was effective IT Integration. Adam Sherk’s recent article on Nine Common SEO Road Blocks delves into some of the IT challenges. His article identifies three of the nine barriers being directly related to IT and two others indirectly related those being “lack of consistency” and “lack of coordination.”

Before we have a wholesale bashing of our IT brethren, let’s consider that some of the problems might actually be coming from the SEO side. I have done a number of interviews during projects various IT teams and have looked and what has been submitted by their SEO experts and too often it is quite embarrassing what the IT teams are given by these SEO experts.

SEO Distrust & Frustration

It is this lack of documentation and prioritization that has fostered an era of distrust and skepticism of SEO practitioners. I have been in far too many meetings where the IT teams cringe when the meeting topic is SEO since it means they are about to be blamed for many things they have not done or have done wrong.

Even bigger problems arise from non-enterprise SEO’s trying to shoehorn in small site tactics which cannot scale and cause more harm than good to large scale sites requiring rework or other massive changes to the site when they do not work.

Flawed Requirements

Along with small site SEO tactics comes inaccurate or non-detailed specifications. I see too many requests of IT that are simply “add canonical tags to all pages” or “remove parameters from URL’s” with no suggestions on how to do it or a business case for why it should be done.

A Web Content Manager in Italy recently told me he is allowed to allocate two hours per month to anything related to SEO and the rest of his time was translating and making changes local product pages.

He had a list of over 100 changes provided by a local agency with little to no instruction. It was a simple Excel file with 100 rows of things to do. He did not have the time to make the changes let alone time to figure out how to make them.

Keeping Pace With Google Changes

Most SEO’s like to impress clients and family with how tough their job is by reminding everyone of the 500+ annual changes Google makes to the algorithm. This boast goes a long way to justify our existence as consultants but can be a major barrier in IT discussions. Many IT teams simply say “why bother since Google will just change it next month.”

This is becoming more of a problem since Google seems to be changing their recommendations more frequently and/or not really taking the enterprise’s ability to implement them into consideration when they make them.

I can only hope that Google will begin to offer more detailed instructions when making the changes and I strongly suggest that SEO’s not immediately jump on them but read multiple iterations and interpretations from Google’s team on the forums and within the community.

A great example of this is a recent post by Maile Ohye, 5 Common Mistakes in SEO, where she gave some great advice especially for the enterprise on how to approach SEO more effectively.

Unfortunately, a few “expert SEO’s” incorrectly interpreted her comments about the canonical tag usage and told their IT teams that Google will delete the variations of pages other than the canonical page from their index. At one such company, they had just spent over 300 man-hours to develop the logic and deploying canonicals to cover the various domain and parameter permutations of their site.

It took quite a bit of time to explain that is not what she said and that their solution was working as Google suggests.

Another recent example is with the HRefLang tag recommendations dust up that Andy Atkins Kruger wrote about last month, where companies were instructed to add this tag for each of the language and country variations.

Perfect for a small sites, but what about an IBM sized site that has representation in over 100 countries and languages? Most companies would need to add an additional 20 to 130 lines of code to their page to add all of these language options.

Talking to a number of enterprise development teams, this would require significant resources to implement which they will not likely allocate since there are no concrete examples of how well it would work.

Almost immediately, most enterprise IT teams have pushed back saying “you just told us to reduce the lines of code now you tell us to add hundreds more?” These types of recommendations cost SEO’s a lot of credibility.

Web & Technical Resource Allocation

We can lump a lot of the problems into the ole’ lack of resources bucket. The global recession has resulted in deep cuts of people in local Web teams or realignment into central hubs in Bratislava, Argentina and India. These teams now handle global issues and are overwhelmed with large-scale revenue generating changes and often making SEO changes to local sites are some of the least important things they have to do.

This is the very reason we on the SEO side need to do a better job of detailing our requirements, creating the business case for change and working hard to identify ways to create scale especially at the global level.

Lack Of Global Considerations

Lastly, many companies rarely think globally when they make major changes. I just spoke to a large European company that was rebuilding their entire global presence. They have spent seven months planning it and thought they had everything thought out and implemented.

I asked about handling countries – they were moving from a combination of ccTLD’s and language structures /german to country structures /de and /at. I asked them what their plan for the content was and they were simply going to copy the single site into all the applicable subdirectories to create local versions and redirect the top level domains.

As you can imagine, this is less than optimal, but the end was near and the code locked down so no changes were possible until far after the launch.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: SEO | Multinational Search


About The Author: is currently the President of Back Azimuth Consulting and co-author of Search Engine Marketing Inc. His personal blog is

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  • Jill Kocher

    Here, here, Bill! I’m an advocate of better relations between IT & SEO as well. I can absolutely see why the mistrust occurs, when so many SEOs approach IT as if their site is broken. It’s not broken typically; it works just fine for the requirements they were given. But not the SEO requirements, which typically weren’t included. That’s a tricky bit to communicate without putting hard working IT folks on the defensive. We can all do a better job seeing things from their perspective.

  • Casey Williams

    It’s all about understanding IT’s point of view… and that it’s not “wrong”. Too often blame is cast when instead it should be a discussion about how we can work together to improve the site as a whole – SEO and otherwise.

  • Adam Sherk

    Well said Bill, and great point about flawed requirements.

    We’ve found that we often need to take a two-pronged approach to conveying recommendations. A more extensive version that builds the business case and clearly maps out and illustrates the issues and solutions, along with clear instructions on how to implement them. But also as a supplement a more simplified list of recommendations in spreadsheet form can be used to more easily assign responsibility, track progress, reassess, etc. – essentially something that cuts to the chase and can be added into the project plan/roadmap. This is also helpful (along with an executive summary) for those that don’t want to (or won’t) read a 100+ page full site audit.

  • Jaan Kanellis

    Defining requirements for IT walks a fine line.  At some point you have to let IT take the ball and run with it.  I agree simple saying “put canonical tags on all pages” is is an extreme example of far too less of details, but writing requirements to the point where a developer from off the street, with no knowledge of the website, is another thing all together.

  • Ram Shukla

     In past few years search have evolved a lot and Google has added many tools to accelerate the  efficiency of the webmasters. Not only the new but also the old websites should use such methodologies.

  • Devon Butler

    This.  Having both friends and colleagues that are engineers I can say that I’ve seen many of them bristle at a marketer having the presumption of telling them *how* to do something.  Creating a Why is useful from a business case perspective, but be careful how you phrase the How.

  • Kristjan Hauksson

    When it comes to SEP this paragraph sums it up “Along with small site SEO tactics comes inaccurate or non-detailed specifications. I see too many requests of IT that are simply “add canonical tags to all pages” or “remove parameters from URL’s” with no suggestions on how to do it or a business case for why it should be done.” For me the business case needs to be there and there needs to a clear indication of what the impact is. Great read Bill as always.


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